10 Secrets Behind Alaska: The Last Frontier

10 Secrets Behind Alaska: The Last Frontier

If there’s one thing people expect to see out of Alaska other than salmon, it’s great reality television. Fortunately, there are shows like Alaska: The Last Frontier, which chronicles the lives of the Kilcher clan as they live off the land on their 600-acre homestead outside of Homer, Alaska.

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Alaska: The Last Frontier has broken the familiar reality TV mold by giving viewers a peek into what it’s like to live the hard life in one of the most remote regions of the world, and the fans love it. By 2021, the series aired eleven total seasons and over 150 episodes, with plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes stories coming to light over the series decade-long run.

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Updated on March 21st, 2022 by Tanner Fox: Having recently premiered its eleventh season in October of 2021, Alaska: The Last Frontier continues its legacy as a compelling Discovery Channel reality series. Following the exploits of die-hard Alaskan Atz Kilcher and his family, the series documents the wild and at times controversial lives of a group of people unafraid to live far off the grid.

Having been on the air for more than a decade, dramatic behind-the-scenes stories are bound to crop up. While some are blown out of proportion, others shine a light on the lives the family members lead when the cameras aren’t rolling.

The Production Company Was Fined For Hunting Violations

A helicopter mishap in the Discvovery show Alaska: The Last Frontier.

There are a number of laws in each state dealing with when, where, and how bears can be hunted, but it seems the Kilcher family either didn’t know of these or disregarded them completely when they took to the air to take out a Black Bear.

It is illegal to hunt from a helicopter in Alaska, and, seeing as they shot footage and a former member of the production company tipped off Alaska State Troopers about it, the family was charged. Wilma TV Inc., a subsidiary of Discovery, was also charged in the hunting violation, as were Atz and Cristina Kilcher. The charges were dismissed in a deal that resulted in a fairly negligible $17,500 fine.

Atz And Jewel Had A Rough Relationship

Alaska: The Last Frontier's Atz Kilcher and his daughter, Jewel.

Atz Kilcher’s famous daughter, Jewel has had a few things to say about her father over the years and though she has appeared on the show, there were some major issues when she was younger. In her book, “The Architecture of All Abundance: Seven Foundations to Prosperity,” the singer/songwriter describes her difficult upbringing at the hands of her father. She asked for his permission before publishing the tale of the abuses she suffered as a girl who left home at the age of 15.

While she admits they have a “great relationship” now, her father’s experiences during the Vietnam War and the abuses he suffered during his own childhood made her home a toxic environment. Her mother left the homestead when Jewel was only eight, and life was difficult, but she has forgiven her dad, and the two have developed a relationship she is now comfortable discussing in public.

The Kilchers Are Never In Any Real Danger

The Kilcher family from Discovery's Alaska: the Last Frontier.

As is so often the case with reality television, the “reality” being presented is almost entirely fictitious. Many episodes attempt to spin mundane occurrences into life-threatening accidents, but the truth is often much less interesting.

Not only are they surrounded by a film crew, but the people on this show—and other shows like it—can also be rushed to a hospital or given life-saving treatment should the worst happen. While it certainly would make headlines, Discovery isn’t likely to air a grizzly documentary of a real family freezing to death.

They’re Just Twelve Miles From Civilization

The Kilcher homestead as seen on Google Maps.

The way the series is presented, it seems like the Kilcher Family Homestead is about as far from civilization as any human can get. That’s simply not the case, and, while their 600-acre plot of land is certainly large and away from the rat race of city life, they are closer to civilization than many realize. If the Kilchers decided they wanted to abandon their life of rugged living, it’s just a short trip to the nearest city of Homer, Alaska.

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Homer is a small town of about 5,000 people about 218 miles southwest of Anchorage. Homer was only incorporated in 1964, so it’s a fairly new city, but it sports a Safeway Food Store, various schools, a public library, two newspapers, and a few radio stations. Essentially, it’s a small American town with whatever the Kilchers need to survive should they choose to go there.

Atz Lee Kilcher Was Hospitalized For Serious Injuries

Alaska: The Final Frontier's Atz Lee Kilcher in the hospital.

Living on the homestead can be hard, but Atz Lee and his family seem to manage. Still, there is the risk of injury and he is no stranger to it. Back in 2015, Atz Lee was in an accident while hiking in Otter Cove. He fell and broke his arm, shoulder, ankle, and hip.

He also crushed some ribs and punctured both of his lungs. He was clearly seriously injured, and his continued participation in the television show was in question for a while, but he pulled through. Thanks to the support from fans and his wife Jane, Atz Lee was able to make a full recovery and return to the series.

Jewel Was Once Homeless

A public speaking apperance from singer/songerwriter Jewel.

When Jewel left home at the age of 15, she went from living on a homestead with a large family to being homeless. Initially thinking she would only be in that situation for a couple of months, she struck out and ended up living in her car for a year. She worked odd jobs when she could get them but found it difficult to get hired without an address to put onto her job applications. Instead of letting her existence get her down, she applied her troubles to her music, which helped her climb out of homelessness.

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She has spoken about her upbringing helping her since the pioneer lifestyle she grew up in helped her to survive on her own. As an adult and a successful singer/songwriter, she has devoted her time and money to helping out young women who also suffer some of the indignities of homelessness.

Jane And Atz Lee’s Children Aren’t A Part Of The Show

A Kilcher family photo from Alaska: The Last Frontier.

Jane and Atz Lee do, in fact, have children, but Jane is allegedly very against having them appear on the show. This brings up an odd dichotomy, as the children are presumably a major part of the couple’s lives, but they never appear on a show made partially to chronicle their lives.

Ultimately, it’s a decision two parents made about respecting the privacy of their children. Perhaps, when they are older, they may choose to appear more often, but that seems unlikely given what Jane has said about them.

It’s Scripted

A promotional image for Discovery Channel's Alaska the Last Frontier reality series.

Anyone who has been watching reality television these past few decades should already know that these shows are heavily scripted. Unfortunately, while an unscripted documentary-style series seems interesting on the face of it, the fact of the matter is that there just aren’t enough television-worthy occurrences in the lives of the Kilchers.

It’s not like a standard scripted show; the producers don’t necessarily feed them dialogue. It’s more about establishing a situation that needs to play out. Reality shows have been doing this for years, and Alaska: The Last Frontier is no different.

Jewel And Her Mother Are Estranged

The singer Jewel in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Atz’s ex-wife is no longer in contact with her daughter, Jewel. When her mother left the family and the homestead, Jewel was only eight, but they maintained contact. Jewel was left to grow up in a home with an abusive father for seven years before she left home. Her relationship with her dad has improved, but her relationship with her mother only deteriorated following a heartbreaking realization.

Lenedra Carroll came back into Jewel’s life when her career picked up. She even picked up the reigns as her manager until things went south in 2010. It took her a few years to realize it, but, as detailed by The Huffington Post, her mother had been stealing from her. Jewel fired her mom and severed all ties. The two remain estranged to this day.

It’s One Of Many Shows Filmed In Alaska Partly For Tax Credit

A collage of reality television shows filmed in Alaska.

Alaska: The Last Frontier is one of 20 reality television shows set and filmed in the 49th state. This is thanks in part to a tax credit policy that came into being thanks to another popular series, Deadliest Catch. At the time, it was believed that creating a tax credit would bring more jobs to the state, but it resulted in out-of-state film crews coming in to take advantage. The result has been shows like Alaskan Women Looking for Love and a number of fish-out-of-water series.

Alaska now boasts the largest number of television series per capita than any other state. Given that the state is only home to some 735,000 people, the massive influx of television series taking advantage of tax credits and the wide-open spaces has brought in some money while also highlighting the state’s natural beauty.

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Jonathan H. Kantor
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Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, writer, and game designer. Jonathan retired from the U.S. Army in 2017 and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects. He writes for ScreenRant, CBR, NerdBastards, Listverse, Ranker, WhatCulture, and many other sites online. You can check out his latest on Twitter: @TalkingBull or on his blog: jonathanhkantor.com

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